Newcastle United 2 Barnsley 0: Relieved Owen is up and running

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The Independent Football

In front of the England manager Steve McClaren, Michael Owen restarted his goalscoring career at St James' Park last night.

Not since September 2005 had Owen scored here; in fact, this was only his second goal at St James' since his £16.5m transfer from Real Madrid two years ago tomorrow. It was his first Newcastle goal anywhere for 20 months, his eighth for the club in just 14 starts. The relief for club and country will be sizeable.

With a typically clever run across the back of Barnsley's defence, Owen ran onto a sweet 57th-minute pass from Shola Ameobi and squeezed a right-foot shot under the advancing Barnsley goalkeeper Heinz Muller.

But it would be premature to get overexcited about Owen's return and while it is encouraging for Newcastle and England, that is all it is. The problem for McClaren is that in England's situation Owen has to be grasped at. As Allardyce said: "England have fewer options than me. He might start for England, but I've got four strikers here."

Allardyce was discussing Newcastle's game on Saturday here against Wigan and whether Owen will start that. "I'll see what he's like tomorrow, see how he feels and take if from there. It's not a formality that Michael starts on Saturday. I'll have to weigh it up."

Owen lasted 82 minutes before making way for Obafemi Martins, who promptly hooked in Newcastle's second, and Allardyce has a pleasing headache regarding the pair. There was also an industrious 90 minutes from Ameobi to consider, as well as the absent Mark Viduka.

Newcastle are into the third round and, although the overall performance was not enthralling, Allardyce said: "We were a little over-frustrated in the first half", the sense of a coming together will be increased by the presence of Abdoulaye Faye in the ground last night. Newcastle are awaiting the results of a medical on the Bolton player and reports in France suggested that Habib Beye is on the verge of joining from Marseilles.

All 30,000 observers had witnessed another Newcastle clean sheet and another display of durable football. Owen had his first half-chance on five minutes and a second 10 minutes later. He then rode a meaty challenge from Rob Kozluk. But Barnsley had a good chance from Dominik Werling saved by Shay Given shortly before half-time , then Kozluk rattled a post in the 63rd minute.

Fortunately for Newcastle, Owen's timing meant that Newcastle had edged ahead before then. All eyes now move to the Newcastle teamsheet Allardyce delivers before Wigan.

Newcastle United (4-4-2): Given; Solano, Taylor, Cacapa, Enrique; Smith (Edgar, 88), Geremi, Emre (Butt, 52), N'Zogbia; Owen (Martins, 83), Ameobi. Substitutes not used: Harper,Huntingdon.

Barnsley (4-5-1): Muller; Kozluk, Nyatanga, Souza, Werling; Devaney (Butterfield, 88), Mattis (Coulson, 83), Togwell, McCann, Ricketts; Mostto (Christenson, 76). Substitutes not used: Colgan, Atkinson.

Referee: G Salisbury.

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